The old proverb of not judging a pitch until both sides have bowled on it was applicable at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto Campus Oval on Tuesday as the England Lions racked up 443 and then bowled the Gauteng Invitation XI out for just 179 on the second day of their tour match.
The tourists were 43 for three in their second innings at lunch, a lead of 307 going into the final day.
It was the hosts who actually set the tone for a much better day for the bowlers. The Gauteng attack had taken a pounding on the first day as they conceded 361 for four (two batsmen retired), but they showed some pride and rebounded well on Tuesday, claiming the last six English wickets for 82 runs.
Alex Lees, who had mixed reserve with aggression in going to 82 not out on the first day, added just three more to his score beforeWesley Landsdale gobbled up the catch at second slip as the batsman edged a drive off Keith Dudgeon.
Jonny Bairstow, the son of a former England wicketkeeper and considered for some time to be the successor to Matt Prior, became the third Lions batsman to retire, having scored a fine 62 off 95 balls and the tourists’ tail did not offer much else.
Seamers Dudgeon (20-6-51-2) and Nono Pongolo (22-7-70-3) were the best of the Gauteng bowlers with five wickets between them, while Zaid Saloojee claimed the last two wickets with his off-spin.
The Gauteng reply was rocked by the early loss of openers Yassar Cook (4) and Karabo Mogotsi (5) to the new-ball pair of Liam Plunkett and Jack Brooks.
Change bowlers Boyd Rankin and Mark Wood then kept the England A side right on top by removing Yaseen Valli (11) and Landsdale (15).
Bradley Dial (23) and captain Sizwe Masondo (27) briefly stabilised the innings with a stand of 45, but the batting honours went to Brian Barnard (39) and Pongolo (36), who added 65 for the seventh wicket.
The tail then collapsed to Wood, who finished with four for 29, while Plunkett was also impressive with two for 17 in nine overs.
Trailing by 264 runs, Gauteng were able to claim three English scalps in the 11.3 overs before the close with Matthew Arnold, Cormi le Roux and Lazarus Mokoena each taking a wicket.
First-innings centurions Sam Robson (1) and Adam Lyth (25) are both gone, but Jonathan Trott is still there on 10 not out and looking to stamp his return to international cricket with a major innings.